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The Next Phase of COVID-19 Precautions in Schools

By January 17, school mitigation efforts revert to local leaders    

November 08, 2021

Starting January 17, Pennsylvania’s local school leaders will be able to adjust or end their masking requirements in K–12 schools, Governor Tom Wolf announced today.

During September, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam issued a public health order requiring both children and adults to wear masks inside buildings for all K–12 schools, early learning programs, and child care providers. The expiration of the school mandate means local education officials can determine their own mitigation efforts, but the statewide order remains in place for early learning programs and child care providers until further notice.

In a statement, Governor Wolf said the commonwealth is “in a different place than we were in September,” and that it is time to “prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting.”

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is now a part of our daily lives, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 20 months and critical tools like the vaccine at our disposal, we must take the next step forward in our recovery,” Governor Wolf said.

In Pennsylvania, 72.5 percent of people 18 and older are fully vaccinated, the Department of Health reported today. While nearly all Pennsylvania counties remain at high levels of community transmission, virus-related hospitalizations have started to decrease in recent weeks, state officials said. There are 2,245 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, including 573 patients in the intensive care unit.

Governor Wolf noted that schools can continue to require mask-wearing after January 17 based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Schools also can take advantage of vaccine partnerships to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available in their communities.

“While we continue to monitor data such as pediatric hospital capacity and case counts, we want to give local leaders plenty of time to prepare for the anticipated expiration of the order,” Acting Secretary Beam said in a statement. “We strongly encourage schools to follow CDC guidance and make decisions with the health of their educators and students in mind.”

HAP will continue to monitor the latest public health COVID-19 developments and provide updates to members.

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine—and providers in your community—is available online.